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Pediatric disaster preparedness in the medical setting: Integrating mental health

Jeffrey I. Gold, PhD, Zorash Montano, BA, Sandra Shields, LMFT, ATR-BC, CTS, Nicole E. Mahrer, BA, Viktoria Vibhakar, LCSW, LMSW, Tanya Ybarra, MS, CCLS, Nancy Yee, BA, Jeffrey Upperman, MD, FAAP, FACS, Nancy Blake, RN, MN, CCRN, NEA-BC, Kathleen Stevenson, RN, BSN, Alan L. Nager, MD, MHA


Introduction: The increasing prevalence of disasters worldwide highlights the need for established and universal disaster preparedness plans.The devastating events of September 11 and Hurricane Katrina have spurred the development of some disaster response systems. These systems, however, are predominantly focused on medical needs and largely overlook mental health considerations. Negative outcomes of disasters include physical damage as well as psychological harm. Mental health needs should be considered throughout the entire disaster response process, especially when caring for children, adolescents, and their families.
Objective: To provide an overview and recommendations for the integration of mental health considerations into pediatric disaster preparedness and response in the medical setting.
Methods: Recommendations were developed by a panel of disaster preparedness and mental health experts during the Childrens Hospital Los Angeles Pediatric Disaster Resource and Training Center: Workshop on Family Reunification in Los Angeles, California, March 31-April 1, 2008. Experts discussed the inclusion of mental health-specific considerations and services at all stages of disaster preparedness and response. Recommendations involve the integration of mental health into triage and tracking, the adoption of a child ambassador model, environment, and developmentally appropriate interventions, education, communication, death notification, and family reunification.
Conclusions: The inclusion of mental health concerns into pediatric disaster preparedness may help prevent further and unnecessary psychological harm to children and adolescent survivors following a disaster.


pediatric, disaster preparedness, mental health

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